ISLAMABAD                   -                 Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that with no vaccination developed for the COVID-19 pandemic so far, the people should learn to live with the contagion for about a year and save them by following the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), including social distancing, advised by the health experts from across the world.

“We have put in our minds that we have to live with the coronavirus at least by the end of this year. And it is our responsibility to take precautionary measures and protect ourselves [from this disease],” he said in a televised media briefing about the latest situation of COVID-19 in the country.

The prime minister said if he had any surety of the COVID-19 ending in two or three months, he would have gone for a complete lockdown for three months and had made arrangements to reach out to the poor and deserving with food items at their doorsteps.

“The experts and scientists from across the world have not found any treatment of the coronavirus, and the vaccine will also not be available this year,” he said. Imran Khan said as the virus spread fast through gatherings and crowds, the people were required to strictly follow the SOPs and guidelines to protect themselves from the deadly contagion.

He said the countries and regions, which had opted for lockdown after the outbreak of coronavirus including Wuhan (China), South Korea, Singapore and Japan, were witnessing another spike in the virus after reopening their cities. “Now we in Pakistan like other countries in the world also have to live with this virus,” he remarked. He said medical staff around the world is fighting against the disease like their peers in Pakistan. Imran Khan said government has to watch corona disease, as well as its impacts on wider society. He said Pakistan despite its limited resources gave a stimulus package of 8 billion dollars to its people, whereas the US allocated 2,200 billion dollars and Japan 1,000 billion dollars for this purpose.

He said cash transfers to people who have become unemployed due to corona virus will be made from Monday next from Prime Minister’s Fund. The Prime Minister said we know that cases of corona will increase in Pakistan in the coming days, but we also have to protect our people from hunger.

He said the number of deaths due to corona virus in Pakistan is less than the projections. However, we have to take maximum precautionary measures to not burden out limited medical resources. He said we are opening the businesses to restart economic activity but people must follow the SOPs given by the government, including social distancing and hand washing. The Prime Minister said closure of public transport is hurting the poor people. He asked the provinces to open public transport for facilitation of people.

PM urges G-20 to further extend debt relief for COVID-hit developing world

Also, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday while calling the G-20 debt relief a timely initiative, urged the forum to further extend the facility to provide greater space to coronavirus-hit developing countries and allow them concentrate their resources for providing relief to their people.

While chairing a briefing to review external inflow and outflow situation of the foreign exchange with special reference to the support received from various development partners to cope with the COVID-19 situation, the prime minister directed his economic team to explore opportunities for debt for development swaps so that the process of socio-economic development could be stimulated.

The meeting was attended by Minister for Economic Affair Division Makhdoom Khusru Bakhtiar, Secretary Economic Affairs Noor Ahmed and senior officials, a PM Office press release said.

The country’s external inflow and outflow situation of the foreign exchange, COVID-19 financing from development partners, G-20 debt relief and possible scenarios for engaging friendly countries for Debt-for-Development swaps were discussed during the meeting.

While appreciating the G-20 debt relief initiative, the prime minister observed that the G-20 relief was a timely initiative that complemented the government’s efforts to cope with the challenge of COVID-19.